Perhaps by now you’ve heard of the No Makeup Selfie. The concept is pretty simple, take a photograph of your face in its most
hideous natural state, post your makeup-free face on your social media feeds, and raise “awareness” for cancer. Reporter and novelist Laura Lippman unwittingly created the campaign after she posted a makeup-free selfie and asked others to do the same in solidarity with actress Kim Novak, who was roundly attacked on social media for her plastic surgery-altered face, which appeared at the Oscars on March 2.
It’s unclear to me how or why Lippman’s call to action morphed into a cancer awareness campaign, but it did, and now the photos on your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram et al. feeds may feature a lot less lipstick and mascara. The photos on their own really don’t do fuck all, aside from feeding people’s narcissism. However, some of the selfies included messages encouraging people to text in donations to cancer research organizations. Cancer Research UK evidently raised $3.6 million in just two days thanks to the selfies. Some men, who go makeup free everyday, wanted in on the egotism and have started posting selfies with makeup on, again under the guise of cancer awareness. Most of the selfies, from both men and women, come with the hashtag #cancerawareness.
Raising money for cancer research is great, and it is necessary, but what exactly does “cancer awareness” mean? Are people actually unaware that cancer exists? Are there millions of people around the world who know what a hashtag is but have never heard of cancer? And how exactly does a photo of someone’s face, with or without makeup, connect with cancer? If awareness refers to testing, how does a selfie encourage people to get screened for breast, cervical, prostate, or colorectal cancer? Maybe the selfies shouldn’t be of bare faces, but bare butts and breasts. That would be more fitting, wouldn’t it?
On that note, allow me to introduce you to another selfie campaign, in case you haven’t heard about it already. It’s called Get Your Belly Out (#getyourbellyout), and to my knowledge it was pioneered by a couple of Twitter members who go by the handles Sahara F-B and Colitis and ME. This campaign encourages those affected by an inflammatory bowel disease to take and post snapshots of their abdomens in all of their scarred, hairy, bloated, misshapen, ostomy appliance-attached glory. The goal is to raise awareness of IBDs – Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis – which, unlike cancer, many people have never heard of.
I won’t deny there is at least a shade of narcissism in this campaign too, as there would be in any campaign that encourages people to take photos of themselves, but at least these aren’t frivolous photos of individuals; they’re very real illustrations of the toll IBDs can take the human body. To my knowledge the Get Your Belly Out campaign doesn’t have a monetary donation element to it, and while that would be nice, I think the prime objectives of this movement were to put IBDs into the public consciousness and to let people with an IBD know that they have a community around them from which they can draw support and empathy.
Hey, an awareness campaign that actually raises awareness for a cause that many people are unaware of by showing images of the cause itself. Brilliant!
And because I believe in the validity of Get Your Belly Out, here’s my contribution: